Category Archives: Health Tips

Get Fit in Four Months: Month Four

“Hello. It’s me. I’ve been MIA because my head is still in Hawaii.”

That’s essentially the only good reason I have for you. I realize that Month Three of this segment turned into Month Three-and-a-Half. Roll with it. You had to know I’d come back for you. A great trainer knows how to make people hold on a little longer than they’re comfortable. How’s that for justification of my absence?

Judging by how many hits I’ve had lately on the Get Fit in Four post series, you guys are ready. You’re ready for the nitty gritty, detail-intensive, game-changing last month. And what better time to amp yourself up for it than during the holidays, when you know you’re going to be thrown into food and drink remorse. I speak of this judgement-free since I managed to gain more than a few pounds on vacation (I blame only myself…and the market fresh coconut filled with rum…and the margaritas at Fred’s Mexican Café). The fact that I’d lost more than a few pounds beforehand during my own Get Fit in Four journey, however, kind of makes me feel no remorse. See how that worked out for me? It’s a win/win. Your turn!

If you’ve been doing your homework from Month 1, Month 2 and Month 3 then you’ve been logging your food, watching your portions, lifting heavier, interval training and choosing cleansing, less bread-like foods. You’ve also been increasing your protein intake. Well done, team. If this was a basketball game I’d slap you on the butt and fist-pump you. Since this is simply the game of life I feel doing both those things in tandem would be highly inappropriate. So you get a proverbial high five and a get-back-to-work nod of approval. We’re headed into overtime.

Get Fit in 4.jpg

Get Fit in 4: Month Four

*Disclaimer: Please remember I’m giving you my plan for myself, which means you may have to tweak a few things if you’re already doing them/they don’t apply/you have an alternate effective method. I’ll give suggestions for options where I think they are applicable but otherwise try to focus on keeping true to yourself and finding areas you can improve on that are similar to what I’m tackling in this guide. Also, this is meant to escalate in baby steps, meaning each month will become more focused, particularly the last month where I’ll be in small-detail mode. Oof!*

  1.  Limit sugars and alcohol.

You were dreading this moment, I know. If you remember back in Month One I promised I would bring you a doable approach to getting fit that allowed you to still drink your wine. Because Yours Truly here does not give up wine unless I’m having a major surgery. Even then it’s extremely temporary. If you are up for cutting out alcohol altogether for a month, do it. You’ll see even better and quicker results than I did and I will applaud you and cheers you with my Walla Walla Red Blend. Otherwise, you can simply limit yourself to one glass a *fill in the blank.* Maybe it’s one glass a night all week long (back in Month One I only committed to 1 glass/night Sunday through Thursday). Maybe it’s one glass every other night. Maybe it’s one glass a week. Commit to it this month.

Also, really cut back on your sugars now. Sure, I’m talking about all that Halloween candy you’re still sneaking or the pies people haven’t stopped gifting you for the holidays. But I’m also talking about sugar in the form of less-obvious things like beverages, cereals, condiments, baked goods, breads, etc. If you won’t be starting Month Four until after the holidays and the New Year begins, you’ll likely be in sugar coma overload.

2.  H.I.I.T. train more, more, more.

Last month I told you to integrate interval training into your workouts. We’re going to build on that this last month and up the playing level with H.I.I.T. training (High Intensity Interval Training). These are generally shorter workouts done at a higher/as challenging as possible intensity. For a beginner bodyweight H.I.I.T. workout check out this post. If the treadmill is more your go-to torture device, there’s a H.I.I.T. workout here for you, too.

Essentially, the idea behind H.I.I.T. training is that by doing shorter bouts of high intensity work alternated with a fixed period of less-intense activity or even complete rest, the body will be pushed to burn fat more efficiently. You can thank your body’s repair cycle for this, seeing as you’ll actually continue to burn calories for 24 hours after a H.I.I.T. workout. Since the whole point behind Month Four is to shed as much fat as possible, H.I.I.T. training is the ringer you call in to seal the championship trophy at the end of the game.

My favorite way to do H.I.I.T. is actually equipment-free. I typically do 20 minutes of H.I.I.T once or twice a week. You can Pinterest the hell out of the H.I.I.T. workout world and find yourself a good one, or check out the two links (above) to my own posts to get you started.

3.  Drink LOTS of H2O.

I mean, you should be peeing pretty much every time you blink. Or maybe just really often. Water is super important this time around and if it wasn’t already a BFD to you, congratulations – you just had a baby – we’ll call her Dasani – and we don’t leave the house without the baby, do we?

If you’ve ever said the words “water weight” you probably know you can lose or gain 1-3 pounds of the stuff over the course of a day. Traveling home from Hawaii on the red eye a couple weeks ago, I was overjoyed to discover my cankles later that day. On opposite day. Truth is, water weight is a jerk of a thing. One way to fight back is by moving lots, reducing your sodium intake and drinking more water than a hungover elephant. I know, my husband thinks I’m insanely eloquent, too.

4.  Incorporate pyramid training when weight lifting.

Here’s where it gets technical and also fun. You’ve already been lifting heavier since Month Two, right? Yesssss. You’re used to doing straight sets by now whether you know it or not – they are when you do a fixed number of reps of an exercise no matter how many sets are in your workout. Straight sets are pretty common and while they are a great thing, it’s time to change it up. It’s time to introduce pyramid training.

There are two kinds of pyramid training: Regular pyramid sets and reverse pyramid sets. Let’s start with the good ‘ol fashioned way first.

Pyramid sets are when you increase the weight each set while decreasing the reps. That simple. Here’s a borrowed example:

Photo Credit: cyclingfitness.hubpages.com
Photo Credit: cyclingfitness.hubpages.com

With pyramid sets, you’ll usually do 4 (or more) sets. Four sets is my minimum when I’m doing this type of workout.

The only issue I have with regular pyramid training and what many people in the fitness industry confirm is that doing it this way means your muscles are already fatigued by the time you begin lifting the heaviest weight. Hmm…if only there were something called reverse pyramid training…

Magically, reverse pyramid training, uh, reverses everything. So instead, you’ll start out lifting the heaviest weight you can manage for a lesser number of reps, then each set you’ll lower the weight and increase the reps. Like this:

Photo Credit: anabolicminds.com
Photo Credit: anabolicminds.com

While I do both kinds of pyramid training to mix it up, I’m partial to doing it this way. For the most part I really enjoy that the weights get lighter every set. I like being rewarded for my valiant effort.

To get to work on either of these methods, simply pick out which exercises you’re going to do and pick a weight and number of reps to begin with. You can do each set back-to-back or you can do the entire routine with all exercises once, then move on to the next set. Your first time will be mostly trial and error as you figure out what you’re capable of lifting. Push yourself as much as you can and rest a little longer than usual between sets (unless your usual is long enough to drive across town for a skinny latte).

Also, it’s crucial that you warm up properly before doing either type of pyramid training. Now is not the appropriate time to shave 5 minutes off your schedule.

5.  Listen to your body!

After all that talk about going into overtime and sealing the championship trophy, here is where I tell you to chill the !@#& out. Quite honestly, I gave myself some breaks here and there during this whole process. Crap happens. My life and your life are not perfect. Pretty sure I could’ve been even more fit when I hit the beach. Pretty sure I didn’t care because…I was on the beach. Be kind to yourself and your body and your perception of it. There are enough crazy-obsessive people out there – you’re not one of them (I mean, please tell me you’re not one of them, right?).

P.S. One suggestion: Do not get a spray tan two days before you jump in the beautiful, warm, salty ocean to body surf. Total. Waste. Unless you enjoy looking like a black and tan brownie. 

Get Fit in Four Months: Month Three

“Hey self, how about we wrap up Month Three with a weekend in wine country?”

–“Yeah, that sounds more like it. Wait, will we still see results doing that?”

“Nope! But it’ll make us even more focused in Month Four.”

–“Good plan.”

And that is how Yours Truly transitioned between Month Three and Month Four. If you remember from Month One, I am actually a month ahead of you on the plan, in order to be sure it’s going to work give you my honest approach. And honestly, the weekend in wine country was worth it. I’m not going to downplay it: The host at our bed and breakfast cooked up the scones of all scones, making carbs cease to exist in my serotonin-induced coma. I really was not ashamed – the food in Walla Walla was fresh, of practical proportions and everywhere we went menus boasted adorable words like “Our menu changes with the seasons and availability.” – Whitehouse Crawford. Go there. Tonight.

But on that following Monday morning there existed a more familiar reality and I was pinched awake from my red wine cloud by the reminder on my phone chiming: “Begin Get Fit for Maui: Month Four.” Gonna need some coffee.

But dang, those scones and that wine…

Let’s back up a bit though, because before all that there was Month Three in which I began running again after my little forced hiatus. Month Three is possibly the most crucial of the four because it is in Month Three that our loyalty to our body gets tested most. Sure, we can handle two months of lifestyle changes but can we handle three months of giving our bodies consistent, well-rounded exercise, nourishment and fuel that won’t make us sink to the deep end of the “I tried” pool? More importantly, can we then end Month Three with enough gusto to face Month Four? Yeah, we can. Because between goals is that swim meet called life we must participate in. So this month we take any set-backs we might have had in Month One and Two and let Month Three kick them out of the lap pool. For we are past the doggie paddling stage.

First and foremost: Keep up with the last two months’ tips – most importantly keep logging your food, watch your portion sizes, stop eating two hours before bed, continue to do more core work and keep lifting heavier. We’re going to get a bit more technical with these specific things in the next two months.

Get Fit in 4.jpg

Get Fit in 4: Month Three

*Disclaimer: Please remember I’m giving you my plan for myself, which means you may have to tweak a few things if you’re already doing them/they don’t apply/you have an alternate method. I’ll give suggestions for options where I think they might be necessary but otherwise try to focus on keeping true to yourself and finding areas you can improve on that are similar to what I’m tackling in this guide. Also, this is meant to escalate in baby steps, meaning each month will become more focused, particularly the last month where I’ll be in small-detail mode. Oof!*

  1. Chill out on the breads.

For me, this little rule isn’t so much about gluten-free or even the calories. It’s about the fact that my body feels heavy when I eat more bread than I’m used to eating or even just when I eat certain types of bread in any quantity. There are all kinds of theories about this out there and very valid ones at that (simply Google “bread and inflammation” and you’ll see what I mean). Without getting deep into the science of it right now I’m going to simply recommend that if you find your stomach instantly balloons after eating bread then…don’t. Or simply chill out on your consumption of it. I love carbs (see above scone rant) and as my last meal I would request the best breads and cheeses and vino be brought before me for my immediate consumption. But I don’t love the tired, weighed-down, inflamed feeling I sometimes get afterwards. Again, it varies depending on the bread and maybe it is a gluten thing, but I digress. I don’t believe in cutting out certain foods completely unless a person has an actual allergy or intolerance, mostly because personally I don’t do well with being told I cannot have something (Youngest Child Syndrome). So I limit myself instead and I’m encouraging you to do the same this month. This also applies to crackers and chips of all kinds. Unless they are homemade apple chips. In which case don’t mind me raiding your pantry…

  1. Eat more cleansing foods.

This is not me telling you to put yourself on a cleanse. You likely won’t see that suggestion on this blog. I find the fastest and most efficient way to nourish myself while ensuring my system doesn’t feel bogged down is by consuming cleansing foods regularly. Luckily we’re in the perfect season for naturally cleansing produce right now: Tomatoes, all kinds of squash, apples, beets, carrots, cranberries, and Swiss chard. Others available all year round (at least in grocery stores) are avocados, lemons, berries and garlic. Now, whether you get your cleansing foods in by juicing/blending them or throwing them together in a hearty soup or other recipe, it’s all beneficial. Thanks to the chilly evenings that are only getting chillier, the soup’s on at my house. Most recently we devoured the below cleansing soup, but here’s a link to some more delicious, cleansing soups we put in regular rotation all year round. Also, eating these items raw or a few of them together in a salad is a great idea.

Photo Credit: Insockmonkeyslippers.com
Photo Credit: Insockmonkeyslippers.com

Roasted Butternut Squash & Apple Soup Recipe

Ingredients:

3 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks (about 8 cups)
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 apples, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. black pepper
4 cups low sodium, organic chicken broth
½ tsp. curry powder (I actually used 1/4 tsp. paprika and 1/4 tsp. cayenne in lieu of curry powder, it gave the soup a kick of heat!)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 425.

Divide squash, onions and apples in two rimmed baking sheets.

Drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil over each tray of fruit and veggies and seasons with salt and pepper. Gently toss all the ingredients together until they all have a light coating of olive oil and seasonings.

Roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Once the ingredients cool to room temperature, put them in the blender (one tray at a time) and add two cups of chicken broth and ¼ tsp. curry powder or other seasonings. Blend for 30-60 seconds or until the soup is rich and creamy.

Pour into a large pot and repeat with the second tray. Listen to your kids scold you for being too loud. Warm the soup over a medium-high heat until heated through.

Adjust the seasonings and enjoy!

Makes 6 cups (4-6 servings)

  1. Introduce interval training into your workout regimen.

If you’ve stuck to your guns and have been getting in more cardio these past couple months, now’s the time to shake it up again. I want you to introduce interval training into your sweat sessions. Interval training can be adapted for all kinds of exercise but generally speaking:

If you are walking/jogging/running/biking/rowing/using the elliptical – Begin pushing yourself faster for a set amount of time, say 2 minutes. Slow it back down to normal pace for 60 seconds. Repeat that combo until you’ve reached the end of your workout session. Each week, increase your faster intervals by time (try 3 minutes instead of 2). You can play with both the faster and slower interval lengths as much as you’d like but be sure to make it challenging every time. If speed isn’t your thing, you can also use the incline option for your harder interval bouts.

Another alternative: You can break your session up into segments – 5 minutes of walking followed by 5 minutes of jogging followed by 60 seconds of sprinting followed by 5 minutes of walking again, for example.

It’s your workout, your choice. I enjoy interval training because it’s a boredom buster, especially on the treadmill. Check out this beginner runner treadmill workout for an example.

  1. Increase your protein intake.

Remember how back in Month One you began logging your food? If you’re using an app such as My Fitness Pal or any food entry program that allows you to track your macronutrients (carbs/fat/protein), start paying attention to your protein intake. More specifically, make protein 30% of your diet. To put this another way, 30% of your daily calories should come from protein. This will be different for everyone depending on gender and goals, but for the intent of this post series I’m guiding you to hit that 30% mark. This means more chicken, turkey, fish, lean red meat if you’re a fan, eggs, Greek yogurt, etc. I currently aim to get 150 grams of protein every day. I don’t always hit that mark, but that’s not so much my concern as it is watching to be sure I’m getting enough protein to help recover, restore and rebuild muscle as well as to feel full longer. As far as the rest of my calories go, I aim for 40% to come from carbohydrates and 30% to come from fat. My Fitness Pal is super helpful to keep me on track…as long as I’m diligent about logging everything!

Screenshot of my own macro percentages in My Fitness Pal
Screenshot of my own macro percentages in My Fitness Pal

Believe me, I’m no angel when it comes to regularly logging my food but I consider it one of the top five most important things you can do to see progress. Remember the last time you conveniently didn’t count the half cookie you ate because your kid didn’t want it anymore? Been there.

***

That’s it for Month Three, but as you can see I think it’s enough to keep you on your toes. Comment below with how you’re doing, what helps you the most, or what you think is the most challenging about sticking with this whole situation!

Get Fit in 4 Months: Month Two

Did you hear that? I’m talking about that shrill screeching-halt sound that was life a few weeks back. No? Just me? That’s encouraging, actually. Hopefully if you didn’t hear that sound it means you’re still spinning the wheels of Month One, waiting for me to get my arse back in gear and post Month Two because it’s been sliiiightly longer than I promised it would be. And that’s why we don’t make promises around here, folks!

In a nutshell, I had a teeny-tiny set-back this past month. Let’s just say even smart phones can’t do what this thing does for humans and let’s just say it’s implanted in my rib cage (In other news: Side boob is the new black). I’ll blog about it another day but let’s also just say I’m doing A-OK and there is no emergency. There was no emergency in the first place. This is all a bunch of fanfare in order to make sure my heart doesn’t pull a big fat Montell Jordan disappearing act. In fact I’m back on track, working out again and enjoying a mostly adequate degree of normalness in my life (Translation: Usual chaos; See also: WTF?).

At any rate, I’m a bit behind on my prep for Maui but in all honesty I’m not entirely concerned. Part of what I enjoy about what I do is being able to make health and fitness work for myself and others long-term and being realistic about goals. So yes, while my goal is still to look great in a bikini I also feel like right now my goal is just to rock some scars on the sands. And to drink pineapple wine.

With all that said, here’s how Month Two is gonna work: You’ll still do everything you’ve been doing in Month One to the best of your ability, then you’ll add in the below things to mix it up even more. At the speed we’re working you’ll be more fit just in time for the holidays. Please realize this means that you will have to hunt a bit harder for a more hideous outfit for the ugly Christmas sweater party you may inevitably attend. Don’t show up looking fantastic and expect people not to roll their eyes at you and invite you next year.

Get Fit in 4.jpg

Get Fit in 4: Month Two

*Disclaimer: Please remember I’m giving you MY plan for MYSELF, which means you may have to tweak a few things if you’re already doing them/they don’t apply/you have an alternate method. I’ll give suggestions for options where I think they might be necessary but otherwise try to focus on keeping true to yourself and finding areas you can improve on that are similar to what I’m tackling in this guide. Also, this is meant to escalate in baby steps, meaning each month will become more focused, particularly the last month where I’ll be in small-detail mode. Oof!*

  1. Lift heavier.

Now I could give you the scientific way of doing this, based on percentages of the amount of weight you currently lift. Or I could do what people who live in the real world do and tell you to pick up a weight that is 3-5 pounds heavier than what you’re currently lifting. So for example, in Month One I was doing bicep curls with 12lb dumbbells. In Month Two I picked up 15lbs instead. Whatever the exercise, you should feel like the last 2-3 reps are challenging enough that you can’t do any more. Just doing basic squats without weights? Then now’s the time to do weighted squats. Want to make jumping jacks more challenging? Add some 5lb dumbbells and do overhead presses while you jack your feet in and out. See where I’m going with this? Go there.

2.  Add in some yoga.

You might skip over this paragraph because you think yoga is too simple and it’s not going to make a difference to your body. Listen, stubborn face! Yoga can give your body the balance it needs between sweaty workout sessions. It can help your muscles recover faster, train your body in different ways and all those downward dogs and planks do some nice shoulder sculpting. I admittedly don’t do yoga on a regular basis but I like to add it in when I’m really trying to shock my muscles. Try doing yoga once a week in Month Two. And avid runners: This is pretty much a must for you.

A great resource to try: Yoga with Adriene

3.  More core. I repeat: More core.

Are you feeling a bit lighter and stronger after Month One? Now’s the time to start waking up the abs. Reducing belly fat is the first step in uncovering abs, which is mostly done through diet. But after adding more cardio and watching your diet more carefully the first month you should be noticing some smaller belly benefits right about now. Try to do some ab work at every workout (some forms of yoga are good for this as well). If you’re going out for a run, finish it up with 5-10 minutes of core moves. Make your stomach and back work harder during your strength and HIIT sessions. Some oldie but goodie moves to incorporate are supermans, bicycle crunches, reverse crunches, leg lifts, crunches on a stability ball, and planks.

Sick of planking? I guarantee you haven’t done them all. Just check out 25 Plank Variations You Absolutely Have to Try.

That’s it! There are only three things to add in this month but compounded with last month I think you’ll find this makes sense. Month Three will be a bit more challenging as we reel things in even more and I give you even more specific goals to hit.

If you are following along and would like to “weigh in” on how you’re doing, I’d love to hear about it!

Get Fit in 4 Months: A Month-by-Month Guide

As I write this post I’m sitting here drinking the World’s Most Gargantuous Cup of Unsweetened Iced Tea. What I really want is coffee. As it is, it’s already mid-afternoon and I know a coffee would seriously screw with my sleep cycle even more than the 24-hour non-drowsy allergy pills I’m taking already do. Turns out, while incredibly efficient at putting a stop to my hacking fits, marathon snot-blowing pity parties and blood-shot peeps (I cannot count on all my appendages how many times the hubs has asked me “Are you high?”), allergy meds can make normal nightmares feel like a meditation retreat. I mean, has anyone else dreamt about witnessing a car run over a polka-dot dress-wearing ghost in a cemetery conveniently located next to the haunted mansion where “babysitters” are watching your two precious offspring who each suddenly know how to break into things with crowbars? Now I know how M. Night Shyamalan gets his material.

Nevertheless, I’m on a mission. In fact I’m on Week 3 of a mission. In approximately three months I’ll be on the sands of Maui with my whole family, dancing to the tune of whatever-the-heck-I-want-to. In a swim suit. The kind of outfit I haven’t worn since I was pregnant in the biggest of ways and taking my then-toddler to mommy-and-me swim lessons. So there’s that. And of course it involves a two-piece which I purchased during my pre-allergy medication status when I was questionably delirious. So let’s just say some things need to happen if that whole bikini-on-the-beach situation is going to play out well.

Now let me be clear, I’m the type of person who will wear that swim suit regardless of whether I put myself on a 4-month fitness program. I’m happy either way. But hey, just for fun – because it’s part of what I love to do for money – let’s see what I can accomplish in four months, shall we? And maybe you follow along because you’re interested too. Because you won’t say it out loud but you’ve gained a few pounds this summer and you feel like maybe you’d rather be in a better place fitness-wise (and all of your people want you to stop talking about how icky you feel). And the holidays are around the corner (yep, I said it) and you’d like to lose some lb’s before that. Or maybe you’re where I’m at and you feel healthy overall but you want to take it to the next level – just for kicks.

But hold the phone: You’d also like to keep some wine in there somewhere because life is hard and diets suck. I’m with you. In fact I’m so with you that I’m three weeks ahead of you just to be sure it’s going to work. You see, I put myself on my own Get Fit in 4 Plan at the end of July and I’m happy to say I’m down three pounds AND still drinking wine (although not as much – I gave myself an intervention *sigh*). But I’m not just looking to lose a few pounds. I’m looking to see what I can accomplish in 120 days. Why? Because everybody needs a goal or we get complacent.

If you’re feeling like it’s that time for you but don’t know which actions to take in order to begin, follow along. I’ll be posting this as a series, so in a few weeks I’ll give you the Get Fit in 4: Month Two plan I’ve designed for myself. No diets, no shakes, just some accountability to and for yourself. That’s going to be the HARDEST PART in this, folks. Losing accountability is ridiculously easy, that’s one of the primary reasons I’m employed. So you’re going to have to dig deep and stay committed – because all the flakes are still waiting for the “right time” to start.

Get Fit in 4: Month One

*Please remember I’m giving you MY plan for MYSELF, which means you may have to tweak a few things if you’re already doing them/they don’t apply/you have an alternate method. I’ll give suggestions for options where I think they might be necessary, but otherwise try to focus on keeping true to yourself and finding areas you can improve on that are similar to what I’m talking about in this guide. Also, this is meant to escalate in baby steps, meaning each month will become more focused, particularly the last month where I’ll be in small-detail mode. Oof!*

1.  Limit yourself to one glass wine/night, Sunday through Thursday.

Okay let’s chat for a moment. I’m admittedly not perfect and obviously the wife of a winemaker, so I enjoy my wine. Typically I try to limit myself to one glass of wine a night on the week days (for lots of reasons encompassing my health, my ability to appreciate early mornings a tad more, the quality of my workouts, etc.). However, sometimes summer happens. Suddenly I’m drinking two glasses a night and the calories begin adding up. I’m no longer a cheap date and Mint.com tells me we have exceeded our wine budget. Boo! I’m back on track and, funny how this happens, it appears that even on the weekends where I’ve allowed myself more than one glass of wine I’ve been stopping around two or three simply because that’s all I want. Tolerance is a silly beast that way. If you find you’ve been throwing back a bit more alcohol than usual this summer, now’s your time to start taking it down a notch (but still enjoy a lovely glass of Petite Syrah/beer/etc.). I’ll be dialing it waaayyyy back in about three months, so let’s save the drastic measures for then, shall we?

2.  Log your food as often as possible.

Remember what I said before about accountability being critical in this step-by-step process? This is one of those things. I don’t typically log my food every day or count calories because, frankly, it’s time-consuming. But it’s also incredibly effective if you want to really see where your calories are going and be honest with yourself about how much you’re eating. Usually my M.O. is to log my calories for a few days whenever I feel like I’ve gotten off-track. It always opens my eyes to where I’ve been sneaking in the excess. Right now though, I’m going on three weeks of logging my food MOST days of the week and in addition to adhering to step #1 up there, I believe this is what’s caused a 3-pound weight loss already.

The easiest way I’ve found to log my food is to use the My Fitness Pal app on my phone. It’s free, and once you know how many calories you should be aiming for each day (check out the handy calculators at Freedieting.com), it’ll help you track what you’re putting in and what you’re putting out (through workouts and daily activities like walking). It’ll also give you a great idea of macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats) so you can see if you’re overdoing it on the breads and cheeses and under-doing it on the lean proteins (a key issue most of us face). Lastly, it has an impressive database of foods and you can always scan a barcode if you’re eating something store-bought. Here’s a screenshot of what the Diary section looks like:

My FitnessPal Screenshot

3.  Run or simply workout more.

If you like to run and you’re not doing it already, start. This is one of those things that as soon as I start doing it again I instantly lose weight thanks to the calorie burn it provides. If you’re already running a lot, change this to weight-lifting or high intensity interval training (HIIT) or even fast walking or hiking if running is too hard on your joints. Basically, whatever you’re not doing enough of, do more of this month to get a bigger calorie output. I’ve been really great about my strength-training and HIIT sessions but as the temps reached triple digits this summer I let running drop off. I keep my runs to about 3 miles now because I find I’m a much better and faster runner when I do shorter distances. Keep in mind you only need about 30 minutes of high-quality cardio to see some benefits, so squeeze it in where you can. Or, perhaps you’re not working out at all. Here’s your kick in the @$$. Aim for at least 3 days a week. Don’t tell me how hard it is – I’m aware.

4Watch portion sizes.

A no-brainer, right? Not so much. Turns out “watching portion sizes” is too vague for most of us Americans. “I’m watching this portion size become unmeasurable” seems to be our general attitude. I’m not saying we have to weigh everything and become obnoxious to our family and friends. I’m saying maybe we don’t have to eat EVERYTHING on our plates. Or mayyybe we don’t need seconds. Even too much of a healthy thing is no longer a healthy thing. If a portion of peanut butter is one tablespoon – how often do you just eat one tablespoon? I already know that answer because I have lived that answer (Ahem: Post-pregnancy #1 and my affair with nutella/peanut butter/bananas).

5. Take a new fitness class.

Oddly enough, this one is proving to be the hardest for me to do this month. It’s a time thing, as I’m sure most everyone understands. I did manage to sneak away from my chaotic schedule one day for a noon Pure Barre class and was immediately thankful I had. Trying new fitness classes breaks up the ho-hum of a fitness routine and also helps shock our bodies into Go-Mode. I’m hoping to visit “the barre” again in the next couple weeks (for those of you interested in the Barre movement, check out Purebarre.com).

6.  No food two hours before bed.

This one really works for me. If I can give my digestion that two-hour head start before I lie down for the night it helps me feel lighter and ready for breakfast the next morning. This applies to beverages as well. Soooo, basically just some good ‘ol fashion H2O, friends. I know this one is difficult sometimes when we’re rushing around with the kids or getting home late from work or going out to dinner with friends, so just employ it on the nights you can. Extra credit: Follow my steadfast rule and ALWAYS drink warm lemon water upon waking. (Check out this post for further explanation).

So there’s the first installment of Get Fit in 4! Are you in?

How to Stay Fit…and Still Drink Wine

Look at me! I’m blogging! Hard to believe my last post occurred almost a month ago, who let that happen? If you could freeze this sentence in time you’d see that as I write this, I sit in the middle of a newly-laminated living room among freshly painted walls and a bright white ceiling and lovely natural light beaming through our temporarily-bare windows and…$#*% everywhere.

There’s a bit of a situation at home base. We decided to remodel our tiny space before we eventually leave it for good. Do you know the best way to clean your house? Answer: Tear it DOWWN. Really. Just start pulling boards from your walls and don’t feel surprised when you see the photo your spouse sends you of the massive mound of dirt (See also: Newly discovered planet where it appears living organisms could safely dwell.) he swept up after he ripped out the carpet.

Until this past weekend there was no way I was pulling our oven away from the wall to Dawn dish soap the crap out of it. But look at me twice: Did it! The upside and downside: We’re going on day 4 of no oven because we still need to install the flooring underneath it. This means lots of salads and grilling and picnics (both indoors and out). This also means I’ve had to get creative at cooking my eggs. FYI: Cooking eggs over-easy in the microwave is a ridiculous concept to tackle, especially before 7 AM.

In related news: Wine. There’s been that over here too. I know, you didn’t see that coming. I’ve got that post – so cleverly titled “A Wino’s Wine List: Part 2” – coming at you next week (see Part 1 here). But in the meantime, I was luckily contacted by Fix several weeks ago regarding an article they wrote for their fun site, called “Skinny Wine: Keeping Fit While Still Enjoying a Glass…or Two.” They thought that post might be a good fit for this blog and, truth be told, it took me weeks to read over it and get back to them. Typically these kinds of things end with me saying “thanks but no thanks” because the content rarely fits what I rant about here. But this one makes all kinds of sense! I think you’ll agree, unless you’re only here for the housecleaning tips and flawless child-rearing lessons. In which case, you really need to look into using a different search engine.

So without further disjointedness, I bring you the real portion of this blog post, written by food and wine writer Maggie Unzueta, who you can also find over at In Mama Maggie’s Kitchen (I’ll bet her kitchen doesn’t look like a cross between Home Depot and an episode of Hoarders.)

***

Skinny Wine: Keeping Fit While Still Enjoying a Glass… or Two

Any good dieter knows to stay away from wine when trying to shed the pounds, but we all know that’s not always a realistic option. With so many amazing wines out there, it’s hard not to have a glass of wine or two after a long day of work from time to time. Instead, let’s look at how you can modify your wine-drinking habits to avoid gaining weight.

What’s the Whine About?

In case you don’t know why you should limit your wine when you’re trying to lose weight, it’s simply because our bodies digest alcohol differently than food. Excess alcohol (or ethanol) is sent through a complex metabolic process. This involves the liver, which potentially can be harmed if too much wine is consumed. The body will burn the alcohol first as energy and store other nutrients as fat.1

Know Your Limits

For safety reasons, drinking too much alcohol is not recommended. We often hear the phrase: “Everything in moderation.” The same applies to wine. With wine calories varying from 110 to 300+ for just four ounces, you should determine your calorie budget before hitting the wine bar.

Photo Credit: Fix.com
Photo Credit: Fix.com

Some restaurants serve six- to eight-ounce glasses of wine. So when you think you’re just having one, you could possibly be having two glasses of wine. Try using this general rule: For every ounce, calculate 25 calories. Next time you are eating out, try to gauge how much you have been poured by ounces, and from there you can estimate the calories in your glass. If you’re not sure how to measure ounces, ask the waiter or bartender how many ounces they are serving. They usually know.2

Calories, Calories, and More Calories

Knowing the caloric content in wines is the key. The highest-calorie wines tend to have the highest alcohol content. Most red and white wines range anywhere from 110 to 175 calories per four-ounce glass, but there are some sweet wines that go up to 300 calories per glass. If you are at home, you can easily search online for the exact calories. If you are hanging out with friends, it might be a little more difficult to figure out the calorie count. Since most of us tend to prefer one wine varietal to another, here is a breakdown of calories by wines to help you:

Wine from Least to Most Calories
Source: Fix.com

To compare, here are the caloric contents of other adult drinks:12 oz wine spritzer: 100-120 calories

  • 12 oz wine cooler: 215 calories
  • 12 oz can of beer: 146 calories
  • 2.5 oz shot of rum, vodka, etc: Approximately 100-120 calories

Sweet wines like Port, Tawny Port and Banyuls not only have very high alcohol levels, but they also hit you with high sugar carb calories. That’s probably why these wines are normally served in relatively small amounts.3

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry

When you go to a wine bar, it‘s standard to order a cheese plate with a variety of cheeses, nuts, and dried fruit. Translation: fat, calories, and sugar. With 650 calories per serving in a normal cheese plate, this is not necessarily the healthiest option on the menu. Yes, there is the matter of pairing delicious cheeses with wines. You can’t argue against that, but you can pair wine with healthier alternatives.4

Healthy Snack Options with Wine
Source: Fix.com

If you are going out for a happy-hour hangout, one very good tip is to eat something before you go out. It will prevent you from overindulging and from having more than you should.5

Burn, Baby, Burn

We all know that exercising is a great way to lose weight. It’s also the best way not to gain weight while drinking. Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a gym rat to have a glass of wine. Here are some examples of typical 30-minute exercises for a 125-pound woman, and how many glasses of wine she can have as a result.

Half Hour Till Wine
Source: Fix.com

In short, the more you exercise you do, the more wine you can have. Also, know that alcohol causes dehydration and stunts muscle growth. Drink plenty of water to keep your muscles hydrated and your organs functioning normally. Although we do burn calories doing activities like gardening and walking to and from the car, we don’t burn enough to consume even one glass of wine guilt-free.

Other Tips and Wine Bits

  • One of the easiest and best ways to cut down on calories is to make a wine spritzer. Take half a glass of wine and pour it over ice. Top it off with club soda. Club soda has zero calories. A typical wine spritzer is roughly 100-120 calories.6
  • Be a wine snob. Most studies show that people buy wine according to price. If you pay for an expensive glass of wine, you are more likely to have only two unless you are related to Donald Trump.7
  • Drink water in between drinks. Water has zero calories and will make you feel full. Not only that, but it will also help lessen the next day’s after-drinking effects.

There are plenty of ways to keep from adding the pounds while still enjoying the wines you love. It does not have to be a dieter’s downfall. Additionally, wine is good for blood circulation and has stress-relieving benefits. Just for those reasons alone, you should not let the fear of adding weight stop you from drinking a glass of wine. Cheers!

***

You can view the article at its original source here.

10 Super Easy Healthy Changes You Can Make Now

I had a completely different post topic planned for this week entailing the inside scoop from our recent winery operations, but our family got a little sidetracked and, well, here it’s Thursday and I haven’t pulled it together. Instead, I’m following my gut’s lead (somewhat literally) and posting some health and fitness tips that have been idling in my mind lately.

You know how January goes – personal health seems to finally take a priority for at least 31 days. As a personal trainer I have big mixed emotions about this time of year. The kind that make me grin and say, “Ah…January.” For one, I’m always happy to see people think about their health and wellness and make changes. On the other hand, watching some sprint out of the gate and then hit the wall by March gets tiresome. I applaud all efforts, I do. I would just love to see them stick. I feel like my kids when they see a freshly wrapped present and get all spring-happy and then I have to tell them it’s for someone else. All hopes: Thrown down, stepped on and crushed. “But whyyy?”

I tend to call myself a real-world trainer, which simply means I don’t jump on diet trends, I don’t prescribe cleanses and extreme fitness fads and my specialty is helping people learn how to be healthy and still enjoy life’s little pleasures without the guilt associations. But hey, if you want to read all about that rant, check out this post. Otherwise, let’s dive in for some real-world tips!

I thought about all the things I could recommend you do but when it comes down to it, there are 10 super easy tips I have for getting your health on-track. Even if you’re a moderately healthy and fit person, I think these are great reminders for staying the course. With that said, this is in no way an exhaustive list. I would love to hear: What are YOUR tricks and tips for making easy changes to your health? Leave a comment below if you’ve got some for us!

10 Super Easy Healthy Changes You Can Make Now

1.  Drink warm lemon water. If you’ve been following this blog at all you’ve likely read this a few times. That’s because I swear by it. First thing every morning, pour yourself a cup of warm water and add a wedge of lemon. How much lemon juice? It depends on the lemons you get. I prefer using Meyer lemons because they yield so much more juice, so I only need to use one wedge. But Meyers can be hard to find. If I’m using a typical lemon I’ll use about a fourth of it per cup. Do this before you drink your coffee or eat anything. If you try it for a few days, you’ll understand why it’s so great based on digestive reasons alone. But if you want to know now why I’m so obsessed with it, read all about the metabolic and overall health benefits here.

2.  Make a green smoothie for breakfast.  If you really want to give your digestive system a boost, combine the above tip with a green smoothie for breakfast. I know you’re thinking you don’t have time to make a smoothie in the mornings. As it is I’m lucky if I get to make them once or twice a week. But eventually you get pretty good at it, which means you’ll spend less time making breakfast than you do scanning your Facebook feed. Also, you get a bit addicted to the feeling of being nourished by one. So with that said, try out some recipes and start by using spinach, since it’s the most versatile green for smoothie-making. If you have protein powder you can throw that in, or use plain nonfat Greek yogurt instead. One of my staple green smoothies is made with a handful of baby spinach, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, a frozen banana, 1/2 cup of frozen dark cherries, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, a few ice cubes and maybe a drizzle of honey.

My smoothie this morning, made with egg white protein I'm sampling, almond milk, spinach, banana, strawberries, coconut oil and ice. Excuse the time stamp, I'm such a rookie.
My smoothie this morning, made with egg white protein I’m sampling, almond milk, spinach, banana, strawberries, coconut oil and ice. Excuse the time stamp, I’m such a rookie.

3.  Switch to a food-based multivitamin. This is actually something I just did, as did one of my good friends. So far I’m loving it. After years of taking a generic women’s one-a-day during my 20s, then spending the last three years on a prescription prenatal, I had no clue what to start taking. I knew I didn’t want a bunch of unknowable stuff in my body (that I would consequently pee out anyway) and I knew I needed something to complement my already vitamin-rich way of eating (iron and probiotics are the two I need extra of the most). After much searching and price-comparing I landed on the Rainbow Light brand (which I found at Fred Meyer in the natural section). If you’re in need of a natural way to get in some complementary vitamins, minerals and enzymes, check it out or just do a Google search for “food based multivitamin.”

4.  Walk 2 miles a day.  Seriously? Okay so this is something I’ve just started doing this week. Yes, it’s winter and yes, it’s cold outside. But those are excuses. My kids appreciate the air time and my body appreciates the extra cardio. Plus this takes me about 18 minutes if I decide to run or 30 minutes if I walk, so even on extremely busy days I can’t complain about the time it takes. If I already worked out that day, it’s an extra calorie burner. If I haven’t (like today), it’s a sanity saver.

5.  Buy a fitness/health/wellness magazine to refresh your outlook.  I don’t subscribe to many magazines anymore (other than Food & Wine, ha), but I do enjoy buying the occasional magazine to boost my knowledge/see what’s new in the health and fitness world/try new recipes and workouts. Sure this stuff is also all over the web, but I find magazines are such a concentrated wealth of information even in this era of smart phones we live in. I have plans for a post about my favorite magazines, so more on that another time. In the meantime, check out Oxygen or Natural Living for a start.

6.  Try a new health food.  You can do this once a week or once a month, but I find that trying out a new healthy item every once in a while keeps me from getting bored. Sometimes I’ll try a new cooking oil (like pistachio), or a snack (recently it was crunchy roasted broccoli florets – so good!), or a new fruit (ever had a dragon fruit?). Places like Trader Joe’s or Rosauers are perfect for finding this kind of stuff.

A Trader Joe's find. Super convenient for quick weeknight dinners, smoothies and pesto!
A Trader Joe’s find. Super convenient for quick weeknight dinners, smoothies and pesto!

basil squares2.jpg

7.  Stop eating two hours before bed.  If there is anything I’ve learned, it’s that no matter how I’ve ate or drank throughout the day, my body does best when I give it some alone time. While I don’t necessarily think people who eat late gain more weight than people who don’t, I do think you’re better off metabolically if you don’t go to bed on a full stomach. Also, if you’re like me and you eat around 6:30-7:00 pm and have a glass of wine, you might be tempted to reach for the dark chocolate somewhere around 9 pm (after the kiddos go to bed).  I find I do far better if I have a piece of dark chocolate at, say, 8 pm and call it. That way if I’m in bed at 10 pm I’m not miserable and I’ve also fixed the issue of eating more than I truly need (too much alcohol and sugar tend to cause us to wake up hours later and have trouble falling back to sleep). Try it and see what you notice.

8.  Drink 2-3 cups of green tea a day. This is far easier to do in the winter months, but as it turns warmer you can simply switch to unsweetened iced green tea.  There are all sorts of reasons this is good for you. Metabolically speaking again, green tea is a pretty superior force. It does have a small amount of caffeine in it naturally (unless you specifically buy the decaf kind), so I would recommend not drinking it past 3 or 4 pm so as not to interfere with your ability to fall asleep at night. To read about the health benefits of this stuff, check this out.

9.  Go meatless one day a week.  You’ve likely heard health and fitness professionals recommend doing this, or at least recommend eating meat-free one night a week. I suggest one whole day simply to let your body detox from it. You probably noticed I’m no stranger to lean meats and I would likely be divorced if I told my husband we need to stop eating meat altogether. But I find a good compromise is this rule. Thanks to the web and magazines and cookbooks, there are tons of great meat-free recipes you can experiment with.

10. Set a small, realistic goal for the immediate future.  Everyone needs accountability. I think the best way to get that is by setting 4-week goals. Maybe those goals are stepping stones to a much bigger goal, or maybe not. I find this time of year particularly motivating because my birthday is in February and even if my goal isn’t to lose weight, it’s always my goal to feel my best. So I have no trouble fueling my body, mind and spirit right now. After my birthday month comes and goes it’ll be a different goal, something to keep me on the path. Maybe your 4-week goal is to lose 3 pounds, maybe it’s to see your cholesterol numbers drop or sleep better or lose some inches or workout more. Maybe it’s to walk two miles a day. Set your goal and work daily to reach it.

 

It’s Not Monday and Other Randomness!

Woohoo! Take a congratulatory lap, you’ve survived another Monday! Since it’s too early to drink wine to celebrate (says who?), instead I’m posting some random thoughts. So much randomness in this world, why not highlight a few bullet points?

  1. That crazy earthquake in Napa
Photo Credit: NBC News
Photo Credit: NBC News

If you haven’t yet heard about it, Sunday morning a 6.0 magnitude quake hit Northern California and shook Napa Valley hard – so hard that unofficial reports say the valley could be looking at a $100 million economic loss. That’s a LOT of wine.

There was reportedly a barrel containing $16,000 of pinot noir that crashed to the floor. I’m a bit of a fair-weather pinot noir fan, but re-reading that last sentence makes my stomach hurt.

Check out this Washington Post article for more on the crazy quake that hit at a VERY unfortunate time, as wineries were gearing up for harvest (not that quakes ever hit on an appropriate occasion).

2.   Bulu Box, anyone?

Fun stuff in a box!
Fun stuff in a box!

I’ve just discovered a little mail service over at Bulubox.com, which mails custom fitness and health goodies to you for $10/month. For those of you familiar with Birchbox or Nature Box, this is the same idea. I’m seriously contemplating signing up because #1 – I love trying new healthy goodies, and #2 – I crave variety in my fitness routine. My only reservation about this? Finding out after committing to a 3-month subscription that it’s loaded with supplements, which I’m not a fan of. I don’t even take a multi-vitamin anymore, let alone rely on any weight loss or fitness enhancing-pills. Has anyone out there tried this yet? Or should I just dive in completely and utterly unwarned?

3.  Meal planning – questions and answers

meal-planning

I get a lot of questions from clients about meal planning and how to go about it. Here’s what I know: Sitting down for 10 minutes to plan out the majority of the week’s dinners will seriously save you time every day. I spend about 20 minutes on Sundays making a list of what to have for dinner all week and then writing a grocery list. Then off to the store we go.

I don’t plan every breakfast unless I have some mornings where I don’t have to rush (ha!). Breakfast is usually a green smoothie, oatmeal (overnight oats recipes are HUGE timesavers and scrumptious, more on that soon), or a Greek yogurt and fruit parfait.

Lunches are always leftovers from the night before because we purposefully cook twice as much as we need, unless we didn’t have enough (aka: the Luke monster ate it all) or had the occasional evening out, then it’s something thrown together if I’m at home (cherry tomato and cucumber salad with cottage cheese and avocado toast = happy woman), or a sandwich from Subway or Jimmy John’s if I’m at the studio or running errands. I really try not to spend money on lunch if I don’t have to.

Back to meal planning. I try to use whatever we already have on-hand so that what we buy at the store ends up being mostly fresh veggies. We’re lucky to have some freezer space so we always have lean beef, lamb (yes, this trainer mama eats lean red meat and LIKES it), chicken, some fish (it doesn’t freeze well as long as other proteins), and shrimp. Occasionally we’ll buy tofu to do a stir-fry or lean sausage to mix into pasta.

Here’s my takeaway tip: If you can think about having one protein, one green vegetable (even if only its leaves are green), and one healthy carbohydrate, you can get the job done. I typically give us one or two nights to play with depending on our schedules and I try to be flexible because there are often times where chaos gets more chaotic and dinner becomes totally impromptu.

For example, here’s what our dinners look like this week:

Sunday: Lamb chops, roasted carrots from the farmer’s market, 5-ingredient corn bread (If you’re going to indulge in corn bread make sure to read the ingredients list, many corn breads on the market have hydrogenated oils in them, which is trans fat.)

Monday: Grilled chicken breasts, kale salad (a family favorite – see this post for the recipe!), and quinoa made with chicken broth and garlic

Tuesday: Shrimp sautéed in jalapeno wine (so good!), soba noodles (Love these! Very quick and healthy!), sautéed spinach and roasted bell peppers

Wednesday: Grilled steak salad (with a boat load of chopped veggies) and grilled sweet potatoes

Thursday: Ground beef-stuffed acorn squash with wild rice

Friday: Fun night out with the kids planned at the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic Nite Glow (my kids love this event and so does their mom), dinner TBD but it will be picnic-friendly

Saturday: Family in town, it could be anything, or it could be whatever we pick up from our fellow vendors at the Boise Farmer’s Market earlier that day.

As you can see, there’s nothing special here. Make it simple and as affordable as you need. Frozen veggies are great in a pinch. Some nights just clean out your fridge and have whatever leftovers you need to eat up. If your work week starts on Sunday, meal prep on Saturday or whichever day you have off. It saves a lot of time, headache, and money this way. Trust me!

4.  Hey moms, this one’s for you

Poise Fitness Playground Workout (<—check this video out to see a bunch of grown adults running around on playground equipment)

Over the weekend Von needed to bottle wine and luckily we live just a few blocks from the winery so I laced up my running shoes, the kids hopped in the jogging stroller, and we hit the greenbelt to pay our winemaker a visit. There’s a playground on this route so it’s inevitable my kids beg to stop there on our way home. Thanks to teaching boot camp years ago and trying to help my mom clients find a way to fit in fitness while entertaining their kids, I have a few playground obstacle courses stored away in my noggin’ that make my kids happy and give me my fitness fix. Granted, it can be challenging to duck your way through playground equipment intended for miniature versions of you, but I find it’s a great way to get exercise and make your kids think you’re the coolest mom ever. Plus, it’s kind of the point for it to be challenging.

A couple ideas: Use the stairs for, well, running up and down the stairs. Use a high step for step-ups. Create a course for you and your kids to run through and it may or may not include the slide. Use any elevated surface for pushups, monkey bars for hanging and bringing your knees up toward your chest (core strength!), another step for tricep dips, lay on your back on the ground and place your feet on the bottom of a slide to do bridge-ups, do jumping jacks between exercises/obstacle course rounds, jump rope (you don’t actually need a rope), perform box jumps on and off a step or bottom of the slide…you get it? Check out the above video for some visuals. And in case you’re wondering, I no longer teach boot camp in the mornings. Now that I’m a mom I reserve that hour for arguing with small people and exercising my non-morning-person patience.

I recommend you save this one for a time when the playground isn’t swamped and you can play freely with your kids on the equipment without some judge-y Debbie Downer parent tsk-tsk’ing you for not paying attention to the sign that clearly points out adults are not permitted.

5.  Being a winemaker’s wife

It's Wine:30 somewhere
It’s Wine:30 somewhere

I’m sure many wives or husbands of winemakers are much more glamorous than I am. Honestly, I don’t do glamour well anyway. I’m too sweaty half the time and the other half I’m laughing too hard, talking too loud or cleaning the mashed-up banana off my shirt. But I find it suits our business well since much of our time is spent at the farmer’s market talking to people, laughing about the un-believability of jalapeno wine, and sometimes doing all that with our sweet holy terrors in tow.

Last Saturday I headed down to the market to our booth like every other Saturday, where Von was pouring our wines and chatting with everyone and I was so excited to see one of my most favorite friends on this Earth. She spotted me first and immediately cracked up at my ridiculousness – pushing two kids in TWO umbrella strollers (for every good idea I have, there are two bad ones) and trying to look as though I have my wits together. It’s moments like those that I truly appreciate good friends to laugh with me about how un-glamorous our lives can be amidst a bunch of hype about people doing glamorous things.

Sunday after Von bottled what will be our next super fun wine release, he brought home a bottle so I could taste it (and make a margarita out of it, of course). I love being able to taste wines straight from the barrel or just freshly bottled. It’s probably the opposite of glamorous, but in reality I think the most glamorous things happen when they are just left to be what they are.

Honestly, being a winemaker’s wife looks a whole lot like making business decisions after 9 pm, writing proof for labels during naptime, holding a kid in one arm while pouring wine samples with the other and holding the fort down at home while the winemaker does the heavy lifting.

Really it looks a lot like what every other parent on the planet is doing in some aspect or another. It’s completely unglamorous, a whole lot of work, and surprisingly rewarding.

Cheers to all your random thoughts today!

6 Healthy Oils and How to Cook with Them (Without Smoking Yourself Out of the House)

You’ve probably heard by now how terrific extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil are for you. It seems everywhere I look, there’s another article about the benefits of coconut oil. This is great, except I can’t help but feel like there’s a disconnect out there between being told that certain oils are healthy and being told how to actually use them the way they’re supposed to be used. Maybe it’s just me, maybe you’ve all done your research and you’re shaking your head right now thinking, “Poor Crystal, she’s the last to catch on.” Either way, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned over the years about healthy oils and how to cook with them, without smoking everyone out of the house.

"Looks like Crystal's experimenting again..."
“Looks like Crystal’s experimenting again…”

This is not an exhaustive list of every healthy oil out there, this is just my list of the ones I use and finally feel comfortable not screwing up. I have yet to implement oils into my kitchen such as macadamia nut, hemp, hazelnut, or even tea seed (yes, it’s real, but I think it’s super scarce which means it’s super expensive and I’m likely not up for that at this particular point in my life). I hear those are all good and I do know nut oils are usually winners, but let’s just start with a few basics.

Avocado oil

Smoke point: 480 to 520 degrees

Avocadoes are really high in monounsaturated fat, which is a great thing, and the benefits of this oil are plentiful. With that said, it’s on the pricey side so I don’t use it for an everyday cooking oil. If you’re okay with re-stocking more often, you could absolutely use this as one of your main oils. This oil has the highest smoke point of most oils out there which makes it nice for grilling and roasting. You can rest assured knowing the oil won’t break down when cooked at high temps. But as I mentioned, I prefer to use this sparingly for budget reasons so I really like it drizzled on my salads or thrown into pasta.

Extra virgin olive oil

Smoke point: 365 to 400 degrees

I find that, like I used to, a lot of people use this oil exclusively and don’t know that unless it’s a very high quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), it shouldn’t be cooked at really high temps. It took a few ruined dishes for me to learn this. Most conventional extra virgin olive oils we find and buy in the stores are lower quality, so they begin to break down at a lower temp. This doesn’t mean they’re not good for you, you’ll still get the beneficial free-fatty acids out of them (unless they’re SUPER cheap). But you’ll want to save this all-star oil for making things like dressings, pesto, sauces, or sautéing. We do use our Misto oil sprayer and put EVOO on our veggies when we bake/roast them, we just make sure the temperature is set at around 350 degrees.

Canola oil

Smoke point: 400 to 430 degrees

I think some people would argue whether this is a healthy oil, but I fall on the side of those who think it is, mostly because it’s high in the good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and lower in saturated fat than other cooking oils. I’m not afraid of saturated fat but since this is our go-to oil for all high-heat cooking we do (which isn’t a lot), I like knowing I’m not adding in a bunch of stuff I don’t need.

Toasted sesame oil

Smoke point: 410 degrees

This one is a favorite of ours because we love the sesame flavor in our stir fries, salad dressings, and sauces. Sesame oil is full of antioxidants and, like the others, high in the two good fats. Plus you can safely make a marinade out of it and throw it on the grill without the oil breaking down.

Walnut oil

Smoke point: 320 degrees

This is a fun and yummy oil, but the first time I used it someone had told me to bake with it. Wrong information. I didn’t know that the oil of walnuts is super fragile which means it’s bitter when it gets heated much past 300 degrees, which is kind of necessary in baking. I ruined some really promising pancakes. Since then, I’ve learned it’s best used in place of butter. So think about trying it on breads, in dips and sauces, or sprinkled over bruschetta.

Coconut oil

Smoke point: 350 degrees

The trendiest of all oils right now, coconut oil is indeed pretty wonderful. But at some point you may have questioned why it’s so wonderful given it’s higher in saturated fat. Here’s the thing: Not all saturated fat is bad for you. The type of saturated fat in coconut oil is not derived out of the same type found in meat and dairy. In fact, it doesn’t even break down in your body the same way, therefore it doesn’t get stored as fat like you might expect. This stuff is the real deal. My favorite way to use it is a tablespoon in my green smoothies (heat it up gently into liquid form first, then pour into the blender while it’s mixing) or a ½ tablespoon to make homemade popcorn (if you like the slight flavor of coconut). But you can bake with it at moderate temps and use it in sautés. Be careful, however, when making things on the stove like pancakes unless you can guarantee the temperature will stay under 350. Again, more promising pancakes have been ruined because I didn’t know what I was doing.

I would love to hear what healthy oils you all use and how you use them!